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The Capital of Yiddishland: YIVO and its Relationship to Vilna
July 22 2014

TUESDAY, JULY 22, 2014 | 5:30pm
Cecile Kuznitz, Bard College

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YIVO was founded in 1925 as the first organization dedicated to scholarship in Yiddish as well as the culture and history of Yiddish-speaking Jews. In retrospect all agreed that it could have only been established in Vilna, "the capital of Yiddishland," which was historically a center of Jewish learning, and in the interwar period a hub of secular Jewish culture. Yet the impetus for creating such an institute originally came from Berlin and for more than two years YIVO's location was uncertain. When YIVO eventually erected its headquarters in the city, it became the crown jewel among local institutions as well as the center of a widely dispersed “Yiddish nation” spanning four continents. What can the relationship between YIVO and Vilna tell us about the dynamics of interwar Yiddish culture? Why did YIVO's leadership waver for so long on whether to locate in Vilna, and what did its decision finally mean for the institute’s work and for Vilna itself?

The Podbrodzer Lecture is made possible by support from the Podbrodzer Progressive Benevolent Association. This lecture was established to honor the Jewish Community of Podbrodz, now named Padbrade.

This program was presented as part of the Uriel Weinreich Summer Program in Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture. For more information visit here.


Cecile Kuznitz is Associate Professor of Jewish history and Director of Jewish Studies at Bard College. She received her Ph.D. in modern Jewish history from Stanford University and previously taught at Georgetown University. She has held fellowships at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. In summer 2013 she was a Visiting Scholar at Vilnius University. She is the author of several articles on the history of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, the Jewish community of Vilna, and the field of Yiddish Studies. Her book on Yiddish scholarship between the two World Wars titled YIVO and the Making of Modern Jewish Culture is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.